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Incomplete Justice
Part Two: Stalking RFK?

by Larry Hancock, 23 May 2008


The LAPD eventually chose to repudiate, reject or filter all the witness observations suggesting that other individuals (specifically a young woman and two men) were acting suspiciously and possibly in company with Sirhan Sirhan. Certainly even sincere eyewitnesses do make mistakes under stressful circumstances. But such mistakes normally involve the details of physical description and appearance. If we accept the LAPD conclusions, we are left with an entire series of witnesses who apparently created observations (including the wording of verbal exchanges) out of whole cloth - and somehow managed to independently place the individuals observed in a series of consistent locations and times.

In addition to the Bernsteins and Sandra Serrano, a considerable number of witnesses reported a specific combination of suspicious individuals around and in apparent contact with Sirhan that night at the Ambassador Hotel. Those observations become even more credible when placed in the context of reported observations of two men and a young woman in company with Sirhan during the two weeks prior to the murder of Senator Kennedy. In several cases those individuals appear to actually have been “stalking” the Senator.

Robbies Restaurant, Pomona California, May 20th 1968

A 400 person campaign luncheon was being held for RFK in the second floor dining area of the restaurant. Albert LeBeau, the night manager, was called on duty to act as ticket screener on the staircase leading to the function. William Schneid, a Pomona police officer, was assigned to security duty in the restaurant.

Schneid encountered a young woman standing by the kitchen door of the restaurant, apparently trying to get inside through that door. He informed her that the door was locked and she then asked him which way Senator Kennedy would enter the luncheon. He told her that RFK would probably go up the stairs to the second floor.

Later, Schneid observed the same young woman, along with a young man, cross over a brick façade adjacent to the stairs, climb over the stair railing behind people checking tickets at the foot of the stairs – only to be intercepted by LeBeau at his position further up the stairs. LeBeau challenged the pair and the woman responded “we are with the Senator’s party.” LeBeau told her that they still needed tickets, to which she responded, “we are part of the Senator’s party; he just waved us upstairs.” Later, he observed them standing apart from the gathering, at the rear of the luncheon room on the second floor. [1]

At that point he was struck by the fact that the man had a coat over his arm, even though it was a very warm day, and he also appeared to be in what amounted to a “crouch”. LeBeau challenged them as to why they were at the back of the room if they were really with the party and the young man turned on him and angrily asked “what the hell is it to you?” [2]

In addition to LeBeau and Schneid, the owner of the restaurant, Mrs. Felicia Maas, also recalled the incident with the young couple. However, she had not been close enough to them to offer any identification.

LAPD records show that LeBeau was fairly certain the young man was Sirhan but would not swear it under oath. LeBeau had successfully picked Sirhan’s photo from a sample set of 25 young dark skinned males but failed to pick out another photo of Sirhan taken from his Racing Commission ID. Schneid apparently did not participate in any photo reviews. Although there is no supporting information in LeBeau’s files (portions of which are missing), the final LAPD report states LeBeau “initially stated the man was Sirhan, but later admitted he lied”. There is also no remark about the importance of the man being with a young woman or about corroboration of the incident from police office Schneid and the restaurant owner. [3]

Kennedy Campaign headquarters, Azuza California, May 30th 1968

Laverne Botting, a 41 year old RFK campaign worker, observed a young woman and two young men enter the Azuza campaign office. One of the young men approached Botting at her desk and said that he was from the RFK headquarters in Pasadena (Sirhan lived in Pasadena at the time). He wanted to know if RFK would be visiting that area. Botting told the young man that RFK would not. In an interview with the LAPD, Botting picked Sirhan out of a photo display as closely resembling the man who had spoken with her. She accurately described Sirhan’s height, black eyes and kinky black hair.

Independently of Botting, Ethel Crehan, another volunteer in the office, called police and told them that she was “fairly certain” that Sirhan had come into the office. She said she could be sure if she could see him in person, so was Botting. Neither women was offered the opportunity to view Sirhan in a line-up.

The police did check with the Pasadena RFK office staff and were told that there would have been no reason for that office to send anyone to Azuza to check a schedule. For some reason, that seems to have played a part in the police decision to discount the importance of Botting and Crehan’s observation.

No transcript exists of the Botting interview, the officer in charge closed out her file with the remark that she “had obviously made an honest mistake.” Although no one other than the police should have known of Botting’s report, she later received a threatening phone call at home – “ I hear you think you saw Sirhan; you had better be sure of what you are saying!” [4]

Crehan’s report was closed because the officer noted that her estimate of the man’s height was three to four inches above Sirhan’s actual height (although still relatively short at 5’8”). For this reason he felt “it was doubtful she observed Sirhan.”

Santa Ana Mountains, south of Corona, California, June 1, 1968

Dean Pack, a Santa Ana insurance executive was hiking with his son in a secluded part of the Santa Ana Mountains. After the assassination, he recognized Sirhan as “strongly resembling” a young man whom they had encountered during their hike. The young man was shooting at cans set up on a hillside, shooting with a pistol. The young man was in the company of a girl (in her early twenties with long brunet hair) and another man who was around six feet tall, with sandy colored hair and a ruddy complexion.

The main thing that struck Pack “was how unfriendly they were.” The shooter refused to reply or talk to Pack, standing and glaring at him. The tall young man was the only one who would even acknowledge his greeting. Their hostility was so strong that Pack had the “funny sensation that it would be possible for them to put a bullet in your back” and was relived to get out of their sight.

Pack reported the incident to the FBI, offering to take them to the spot to recover bullets or shell casings and look for fingerprints on the bottles and cans being handled by the three. The FBI was uninterested.

A two-sentence LAPD report on Pack states that he “was exhibited a photograph of Sirhan” and said that the man he saw “strongly resembled” Sirhan but that he “was not positive of the identification.” When interviewed by Christian in 1969, Pack stated that he had only talked to the police on the telephone, had been shown no picture and still felt that the young man he and his son had seen shooting was Sirhan. [5]

The lack of police interest in Pack’s report is particularly strange since they had developed considerable evidence that Sirhan was indeed in the Corona area on June 1, shooting his gun. Detective Chief Houghton described the “Corona Police Department Gun Range investigation” on pages 251 and 252 of Special Unit Senator. The range master, William Marks (a Corona policeman) identified Sirhan from a photo display, as did Harry Starr, the range assistant. In addition, the sign in log for the range contained Sirhan’s signature and the District Attorney’s handwriting expert gave an official opinion that it was indeed Sirhan’s.

The only issue with the Corona range sighting was that both men reported Sirhan in the company of another man and both apparently gave a description of Sirhan which would have had him a good deal too tall as well as too heavy (the height and weight of the second man would have been much closer to Sirhan). Because of the discrepancy in the descriptions, the police officially rejected the sighting. However, Chief Houghton himself seems to be of a different opinion on the incident, closing his own writing on the incident by stating that Sirhan probably had used up his bullets at the range, causing him to purchase the two boxes of ammunition that a sales receipt found in his car had recorded for that date. In fact, Houghton opens the third section of his book with a statement that Sirhan had spent time at the Corona practice range that day!

In addition to the incidents noted above, there is an ongoing pattern of Sirhan “stalking” RFK at other public appearances. That pattern will be discussed at more length in an essay on Sirhan. However, his association with others, specifically a young girl, continued on to repeated sightings at the Ambassador hotel.

At the Ambassador – Sunday evening

Karen Ross was interviewed by Ramparts Detectives on June 6, 1968. She stated that while attending a rally for RFK in the Coconut Grove room in the Ambassador Hotel, the Sunday before the assassination, she had observed a young woman in a polka dot dress at the rally. The woman was medium height, somewhat “husky” with dark blond hair worn with a “puff”. Ross thought there was something unusual about the girls nose, possibly it had been “fixed”.

Sirhan was also at the Ambassador that evening. He was positively identified as having been in the Coconut Grove room by Mrs. Susan Redding and later in the vicinity of the Embassy ballroom by Burt Blume. Blume knew Sirhan personally because he had worked next door from him and Sirhan had dropped by frequently, making small talk. In RFK Must Die!, Robert Kaiser wrote that at first Sirhan denied being at the Ambassador on Sunday, then admitted being at the hotel but specifically called two individuals who reported him in the area of the kitchen, liars.

At the Ambassador – election night

The evening of the primary election, Irene Gizzi noticed a group of three people “who just didn’t seem to be dressed properly for the occasion.” The individuals were talking amongst each other and didn’t fit in with the exuberant crowd. The young woman in the group had on a polka dot dress and was with a young man with a dark complexion, dark hair and a gold colored shirt. She felt that the third man might well have been Sirhan. [6]

Gizza was in the company of a friend, Katherine Keir, who corroborated her observation of the group and gave a very similar description of the individuals including the girl being in a polka dot dress and one man being in a gold colored shirt.

Later that night, during Kennedy’s speech, Roy Mills observed a group of five people (including a woman) in the hallway outside the Embassy room. He identified one as Sirhan, remembering him specifically for his baggy pants. Mills had the impression that one of the men was a hotel employee. [7]

Darnell Johnson, one of the pantry shooting witnesses, described four men and a girl in the pantry as RFK was entering. One of the men was Sirhan. The girl was in a polka dot dress. The girl and the men walked out of the pantry as everyone was rushing to RFK and wrestling with Sirhan. [8]

As previously related, witnesses observed the young woman and man hurrying out of the pantry and corridor after the shooting, their reports trace the couple moving through the Embassy room and out towards the rear stairs and parking lot.

Accessories?

A young woman, medium height, medium weight, good figure -“busty” - with dark (dishwater) blonde hair, with a puff (bouffant look) at the front. Seen with Sirhan in company with young men prior to election night, making inquiries into RFK’s movements and reportedly gleeful after the Senator’s shooting.

A young man, short to medium height, dark skinned, similar in appearance to Sirhan or to one of Sirhan’s brothers.

A young man, taller, possibly six feet, sandy colored hair and a ruddy complexion.

The young woman, the tall young man, Sirhan – all reported loitering in the vicinity of the corridor and pantry during RFK’s speech. Reported in the pantry corridor as Robert Kennedy exited after his speech. Reported fleeing the pantry corridor and Embassy room as the rest of the observers were in shock, wounded, assisting RFK or wrestling with Sirhan.

It would appear that within a few days of the assassination, LAPD had sufficient information to create a picture of a group of individuals associated with Sirhan Sirhan in the weeks prior to Senator Kennedy’s murder and in the Ambassador hotel, in contact with Sirhan prior the shooting and even at the scene of the crime. Even if they were not participants in the shooting itself, they were in contact with Sirhan, encouraging and apparently assisting him. But for all their charts, timelines and diagrams, this was clearly one series of dots not connected by Special Unit Senator. They did seem to develop a bit of an attitude about the whole subject though.


Next in the Incomplete Justice series - Part Three: "They are all fibbing..."

NOTES

[1] Klaber and Melanson, Shadow Play, pp. 136-138.

[2] Kaiser, RFK Must Die!, p. 533. Other versions of the man’s reply are less dramatic with the quote being given as “Why should I?” per Houghton in Special Unit Senator, p. 141.

[3] Shadow Play, pp. 138-140 Kaiser, RFK Must Die!, p. 533.

[4] Ibid., pp. 138-140.

[5] Turner and Christian, The Assassination of Robert Kennedy, p. 222.

[6] DiEugenio and Pease, The Assassinations, p. 588. It should be noted that Gizzi (Chairman of Youth for Kennedy) was actually in the company of six young girls who all supported her report. The girls had all been interviewed on June 6 by Ramparts detectives. However, an LAPD memo (apparently of August 5) instructed that all these persons were to be re-interviewed, informed that the Serrano story was false and offered a “tactful” opportunity to correct their statements. The memo goes on to record that each girl was re-interviewed “in the presence of their parents”.

Several of the girls (unnamed) retracted or qualified parts of their earlier remarks – although all of them still insisted that the individuals they had seen and reported stood out to them because of their behavior. And, and in particular, the young man’s clothing was very out of place. During the re-interview, the young woman were unable to identify a “new” mug shot of Sirhan as the person they had seen.

This summary LAPD memo states that various individuals interviewed during the investigation had made strong statements abut seeing Sirhan accompanied by other individuals. “However, each individual was re-interviewed in depth and has either retracted their statement after they have been proven false or have voluntarily modified their previous statements.”

[7] Ibid., p. 587.

[8] Ibid., p. 587.

The Incomplete Justice series

Part One: At the Ambassador Hotel
Part Two: Stalking RFK?
Part Three: "They are all fibbing..."
Part Four: "No there were no other guns..."
Part Five: Mind Games?
Part Six: "I don't know any other people..."



Documents

May 20: Robbies Restaurant, Pomona

Phone Call Record. Notes on phone call from Felicia Manns (owner of Robbie's) reporting LeBeau's story.

June 26 interview of Albert Richard LeBeau. This three-page detailed interview summary contains quotes from LeBeau, but no recording or transcript exists in the files. There are also no records of the interviews conducted prior to this "re-interview." See also two handwritten notes of interviews with LeBeau conducted by the Pomona police.

SUS Conspiracy Team Progress Report. Summarizes interviews with LeBeau and others regarding the Pomona incident.

SUS Final Report, p.1038. Summary of LeBeau allegation, with unsubstantiated claim "Le Beau initially stated the man was Sirhan, but later admitted he lied."

June 20 FBI Interview of William Schneid. Schneid was a Pomona police officer who corroborated LeBeau's story.

LAPD Interview Record I-3020. Dated 24 Jun 1968, this interview sheet simply makes reference to the FBI interview of William Schneid.

SUS Final Report, p.1148. Summary of Schneid account, which ends with "However, he did not feel the man he observed was Sirhan."

May 30: RFK Campaign HQ, Azuza

July 219 FBI interview of Lavern Botting. She described the appearance of Sirhan and two companions to the office, and noted co-worker Ethel Creehan's presence.

Aug 16 LAPD interview of Lavern Botting. Botting described Sirhan and female companion, and picked out Sirhan's photo. She also related a phone call where she was warned: "I hear you think you saw Sirhan. You had better be sure of what you are saying."

SUS Final Report, p.887. Summary of Botting account, ending with "the only way she could be sure of her identification would be to view Sirhan in person." She was never given that chance.

June 7 LAPD interview of Ethel Crehan. She described Sirhan and his two companions.

July 19 FBI interview of Ethel Crehan. Crehan's story corroborated Lavern Botting's, and Crehan was "fairly certain that the individual.....is Sirhan."

SUS Final Report, p.916. Summary of Crehan account, noting that Ms. Crehan did pick out Sirhan's photo, but supplied an incorrect height of 5'8".

SUS Final Report, p.1170. Notes Maxine Stell "does not recall anyone being sent from her [Pasadena] headquarters to the Azuza Headquarters on that day."

June 1: Santa Ana Mountains

SUS Final Report, p.1099. Two-sentence summary of Dean Pack's story. While Pack's name appears in a few lists of witnesses (see for instance Pack's name listed under "Range" witnesses), no record of any interview exists in LAPD files.

June 2: Ambassador Hotel

June 6 LAPD interview with Karen Ross. Ross described a girl in a polka-dot dress which closely matched descriptions others gave of the girl seen in Sirhan's company the night of the assassination: "dark blond hair wore in short flip puffy.....nose maybe fixed." The dress was also described as "wht background blk dots dots the size fo [sic] a dime." The next page connects this to "Serrano" and has "story phony" written in by Lt. Pena, along with "No further int.[erview]."

SUS Final Report, p.1135. One-sentence writeup says simply: "Ross observed a woman wearing a polka dot dress at Kennedy Ambassador Hotel rally June 2, 1968."

Sirhan Sirhan Trial Testimony, pp.5137-5146. On 6 Mar 1969, Sirhan testified about being at the Ambassador Hotel on the evening of June 2, 1968.

June 4/5: Ambassador Hotel

June 6 LAPD interview with Irene Gizzi. Gizzi noted three people who seemed out of place, including a girl in a polka dot dress. See also a separate August 6 interview of Gizzi, and SUS Final Report, p.970.

August 7 LAPD interview with Katherine Keir. See also SUS Final Report, p.1021.

August 16 LAPD report of re-interviews of Students for Kennedy members. In particular Katherine Keir revised her statement about the polka dot dress girl when re-interviewed in her parent's presence.

June 6 LAPD interview of Roy Mills. Mills saw Sirhan in the company of others, including a girl, in an open area off the ballroom. See also an August 9 LAPD interview.

August 6 LAPD interview of Pauline Walker, who also saw the polka dot dress girl in an area off the ballroom.

July 1 LAPD interview of Conrad Seim, who was asked for his press badge by a persistent woman in a polka dot dress. See also his June 7 interview and SUS Final Report, p.1151.

June 6 LAPD interview of Darnell Johnson, who reported seeing Sirhan and a girl in a polka dot dress, along with three others, in the pantry just prior to RFK's shooting. See also his June 7 FBI interview and a July 24 interview, and SUS Final Report, p.1013.

August 1 LAPD interview of George Green. See also his July 15 FBI Interview.

June 5 LAPD interview of Booker Griffin. See also his July 25 interview.

July 5 LAPD interview of Dr. Marcus McBroom.

June 13 FBI interview of Jack Merritt.

June 7 LAPD interview of Sandra Serrano, who saw two men and a woman enter the back of the hotel and then later rushed from it, saying "we shot him, we shot him." See also June 10 interview of Deputy D.A. John Ambrose, to whom Serrano told the story shortly after the shooting.

Sep 26 LAPD interview with Officer Paul Sharaga. This recounts the episode with the Bernsteins, but adds that "he believes.....what was said was misinterpreted." Sharaga has disputed this interview report in a signed affidavit.



Document Collections

Special Unit Senator LAPD Collection. Microfilmed files of the LAPD's Special Unit Senator investigation, plus later hearings on the RFK case.

FBI LAFO Files. FBI Los Angeles Field Office files.

Sirhan Sirhan Trial Transcript. Transcript of court proceedings, including pre-trial hearings, trial testimony, and closing arguments.

Appeal Documents. Court filings and other documents related to the appeal of Sirhan Sirhan's murder conviction and death sentence.

Request to Los Angeles County Grand Jury. 1992 request for investigation based on issues arising from release of LAPD files.

Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. Petition for a new trial for Sirhan Sirhan, submitted by the late attorney Lawrence Teeter.

Report on the Medicolegal Investigation of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Autopsy report by coroner Thomas Noguchi.

See all RFK Assassination Documents.


Books of Interest

    R.F.K. Must Die!
Robert Blair Kaiser
E.P. Dutton and Co., 1970
 
    The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy
Jonn Christian and William Turner
Random House, 1978
 
    Shadow Play
William Klaber and Philip H. Melanson
St. Martin's Press, 1997
 
    The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X
James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, eds.
Feral House, 2003
 
    The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination
Philip H. Melanson
Shapolsky Publishers, 1991
 
    Special Unit Senator
Robert A. Houghton with Theodore Taylor
Randhom House, 1970


See all RFK books.



Essays

Sirhan and the RFK Assassination, Part I: The Grand Illusion, by Lisa Pease.

Sirhan and the RFK Assassination, Part II: Rubik's Cube, by Lisa Pease.

Bartcop.com Assassination Series: RFK.

See all RFK essays.


Other Links

The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Archives Collection. This archive at the University of Massachusetts was created by Professor Philip Melanson, who wrote several books on the assassinations of the 1960s.

California State Archives: Robert F. Kennedy Assassination Investigation Records. The California State Archives holds the physical evidence of the crime as well as voluminous reports.

Real History Archives - RFK Assassination. Lisa Pease website includes essays on political assassinations, including RFK's.

Sirhan's longtime research Rose Lynn Mangan has a website devoted to the case, with many scanned primary source materials.

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